Conversing With Baby

Your baby may already understand that communication is a two-way street, which is an important conversational skill. When we talk to friends or colleagues, we take turns. They talk, we talk, and hopefully we don’t talk over each other too much. Talking with your baby is the same—even though you may not be able to understand them yet, it’s important to talk back and forth with them. You can start having conversations with them when they first start making sounds, usually around 3-4 months.

How? This is one area where you can follow your baby’s lead. When your baby makes a sound, consider it as them taking their turn. After they make a sound, you make a sound back. An easy way to do this is to imitate your baby, and then see if they can imitate you. If your baby is making a sound like “ahhhhhhhhhhh,” repeat it back to them again by saying “ahhhhhhh” or “You said “ahhhhhhh.” Or, if they are babbling, maybe saying “babababa” or “mamamama,” say it back to them. Go back and forth, letting them make some sounds, and then you making sounds. As you imitate their sounds, make eye contact with them and smile, just as you would in conversation with another adult.

If you aren’t sure what sounds your baby is making yet, use your imagination and play along. A conversation with baby after naptime might sound something like this:

You: Hello, Baby, did you wake up?

Baby: Mmmmm

You: You did? Did you have a good nap? You slept a long time!

Baby: Ahhhhhhh

You: I love it when you take naps like that. Let’s get up and change your diaper now.

Baby: Bababa

Even though Baby isn’t saying words you can understand, he or she is still taking their turn in conversation and communicating back and forth with you.

Another fun way to play with language with your young baby is to use pitch. Make a vowel noise “ahhhhhhh” but raise your voice from a lower pitch to higher, or higher to lower. Often your baby will imitate your pitch back to you. Or, make some sounds quieter, and others louder. Baby might think it’s funny or entertaining, but you’re also using some important features of conversation (tone and pitch) that we use to change meaning all the time (think about sarcasm or yelling).

So, talk, talk, talk to your sweet baby! If you have questions about your child’s speech development, give us a call. In Sioux Falls, 605-444-9700. In Sioux City, 712-226-ABLE (2253). In Rapid City, 605-791-7400.

-Bridget Page, MA, CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist, LifeScape